An Open Letter to the Parent I lost to Suicide

I want you to know I forgive you. 

I wish you would have done the same. 

I’m crying again. I am crying because of the time I lost with you, and I’m crying because of the time I spent with you. I know you don’t want to make me cry. I know you cried enough for us both. 

I think a lot about who you were. Not as a parent, but as a person. What it would have been like to know you before the darkness swallowed you. I wonder what it was like to be your friend, to gossip and laugh with you. I wonder what made you laugh til your cheeks hurt. I wish you were here to tell me about those things. 

The big days have come and gone without you here. Graduations, weddings, babies, first homes, divorce. Life and time marched on, as they do. But you are frozen in time in my pictures. Smiling with me in your arms by the ocean. Holding my sister as she giggles up at you. Sitting at the kitchen table, midway through a joke I’ll never hear. Everyone says you were really funny. I wish I could remember more of that part of you. I would hold it so tight to my heart. I hold so tight to the little things I have left in my mind. I try to let go of the pain…but no matter how much I let go—it holds onto me. You were supposed to be there. When my own days grew were supposed to be there. And when I crawled out of that darkness that almost swallowed me too…you were supposed to be there.
People tell me you can see me. They tell me you are always with me. But you aren’t. You’re gone. I know they mean well. But you are gone. 

Questions, I must have asked a million. Or maybe I just asked the same one a million times. How many times can you ask “why?” in 19 years? I don’t know. Sometimes I can’t tell how I feel about you. Sometimes I can. Sometimes it’s grief. Sometimes it’s fury. Sometimes it’s pity. Maybe the worst thing I ever felt was the same. The worst was when I felt what I imagine you felt—like a burden. 

Your pain was scary to me. I didn’t know what it was when I was small, but it was always around you. It was always in the air. Some days were better. I wish there were more of those. I wish it for both of our sake. But you were not a burden. If you hear nothing else of all the whispered words and tear-filled screams and letters you would never get to read, I hope that makes it to you. 

I don’t know anymore which words are heavier…the ones I said, or the ones I’ll never get to say. 

I don’t know which pain is deeper…the loss of your life, or the loss of you I had to watch before your death. 

I don’t know which part of my heart breaks more…the one for you, or the one for who you could have been. 

I don’t know much, I guess. That dirty, whispered word. 


It is shrouded with unknown. With stigma, with confusion, and with grief unlike and other.

I can never hear it now without my mind jerking abruptly to you, and to the mountain of pain it evokes. I used to fight with people and get really upset when they didn’t understand. Now I let it go. I know that’s not the part that matters. 

I know I said I asked a million questions, but one thing will never be a question. 

I love you. Even when I hate you…I love you. 

I love you by the ocean and at the kitchen table and holding my sister and decorating the tree. I love you in your cut off shorts, I love you when you cried and seemed like a lost child in a grown-up body, I love you for all the times that you didn’t love you. 

I will be here, appreciating the pain that allows me to more fully appreciate joy. 

I will be here, talking about you in an honest way, whether people like it or not. 

I will be here, making the best of a broken heart. 

I will be here, doing my best, just like I know you would have wanted.  

I’m not crying anymore. I know you didn’t want to make me cry.

I wish I didn’t have to write this letter.